This Is How I Can Be So Sure of a Jesus I Doubt.

A few weeks ago I sat with a newish friend of mine--a smart, professional young woman. She was explaining where she was at in her spiritual journey, and said something like,  "I believe in God. Totally. But Jesus is the thing I struggle with. I mean how can we really know that this Jesus from two thousand years ago is God?"

A fair enough question and, in truth, my friend's comment sent me on a thought journey for several days as I pondered the ways in which I might have responded to the question: How do I really know that Jesus is God?

If she'd asked for my thoughts, I might have talked about historical eyewitnesses and the unlikelihood of so many of them consistently testifying to the same miracle--the resurrection of Christ, not to mention the multiplication of food, healings, walking on water. I might have talked about how unlikely it was that so many disciples would have surrendered themselves to be martyred, mutilated, and tortured had they not wholeheartedly believed what they said they saw--Jesus risen from the dead--and if they hadn't experienced supernatural power flowing through their ministries as they proclaimed Jesus-as-God.

I might have said that. But really, none of it would have proven a thing. And for most people I know, historical speculation and probabilities are not the ingredients that tip the scales in Jesus' favor. It's often something else entirely. Something subjective, internal.

Christians say the Holy Spirit is the one that draws a person into faith, into conviction of Jesus as Lord. (The Trinity, btw, is like a family that supplies its own cheerleaders: the Spirit helps people fall in love with Jesus). Some people say that this sense of certainty about Jesus-as-God is like experiencing your heart on fire. Internal, unseeable, undeniable.

But definitely not provable.

I could have told my friend about the Spirit sweeping across my life like so many daily gusts of wind--sweeping through with insight, wisdom, healing, correction, warning, clarity, peace, as I oriented my heart toward Jesus.

Maybe I should have told her that I too have doubted. I've asked the very same questions, more recently than I care to admit. Is Jesus really the Way? Have we, for two thousand years, drunk the same Kool-Aid? Are we all deluded, deceived? Is this Jesus just the opiate of my people?

But then I remember that if Jesus is anything other than God, he's definitely not an opiate, lulling me into some sort of spiritual-religious coma. Jesus has stirred me to hard, risky things and has asked me to be brave on his behalf, lose sleep on his behalf, give up money on his behalf, love people I'd rather not on his behalf, and suffer forgiveness on his behalf toward those who've crushed my heart. Also, he asked me to take a pay cut and start a church in a place where people didn't exactly line up to get in the door.  Vicodin he is not.

But, I've simultaneously doubted as hard as I've been sure of Jesus.

The days of doubt are close to debilitating. But in the middle of doubting, I inevitably find myself talking with this Jesus I doubt about my doubt. When I wonder and fret, I find myself recognizing the whisper of the Spirit. As I imagine what life would look like if I conclude this is all a charade--there is no God, he is not revealed in Jesus--I am always reminded of all the ways I have experienced Jesus, all the times my heart has been on fire. 

This is how I can be so sure of a Jesus I doubt.

There are experiences, friend, that I don't even know how to begin to describe here. When I felt him. When I saw him, in my mind's eye, say words to me that broke me open. When I prayed and prayed and asked him to heal my eyesight and a year later my ophthalmologist told me I had 20/20 vision. When God, who I knew through the image of his son Jesus, spoke to me in dreams about my future children while I waded through seasons of infertility and loss. When God, who I knew through Jesus, poured out comfort as I grieved a brother who'd died and filled me with joy in the middle of great darkness.

"Even though I never saw him with my eyes, I chose to trust him, and this has resulted in indescribable joy."*

*Paraphrase of 1 Peter 1:8